There wasn’t much detail on tonight’s Ten’o’clock BBC1 news bulletin but Nick Robinson accompanied Iain Duncan Smith to Glasgow and met some of the people who have inspired the former Tory leader to pursue his commitment to find new ways to defeat poverty.
The BBC’s Political Editor reported that Iain Duncan Smith had been on a years-long crusade to convert his party to the cause of social justice and with tomorrow’s publication of the heavily-trailed final report that crusade now expands to the whole nation.
IDS is first filmed with Janis Dobbie (above) who has lost two sons to drugs. A key component of the Social Justice Policy Group’s report is a major increase in funding for drug rehabilitation and a movement away from methadone-type programmes that maintain people in forms of prescription dependency and towards real programmes that provide freedom from addiction. Prescription programmes currently receive ten times as much funding in total as freedom programmes. IDS also wants a tighter classification of cannabis given the links between stronger forms of this drug and mental illness.
Iain is filmed above with Janis and Jim Doherty of the Gallowgate Family Support Group. The Group is one of the small community-based projects that the voluntary sector chapter of the report is designed to help. The SJPG aims to ‘trustmark’ the best community groups with a new level of recognition that will attract higher levels of private and public sector grants. The report also suggests more use of matched funding so that the crucial decisions about which charities receive public money are increasingly made by local people rather than remote bureaucrats.
Nick Robinson’s report concluded with a preview of tomorrow’s announcement that IDS will recommend a £6bn package of support for marriage and two parent families. Half of which will go towards a new tax allowance for married couples and half of which will go to eliminate the benefits penalty that couples have to face compared with single parents.
Many middle class observers sneer that they would never get married or stay married for a tax perk. That ignores the reality of ‘life at the bottom’. Many couples struggle to make ends meet and Gordon Brown’s tax and benefits system makes it economically advantageous for many low income parents to live apart or at least pretend to live apart.
My own hope is that there isn’t too great a media focus on the tax allowance. The SJPG will also recommend new forms of counselling and practical support for couples starting their life together. This practical mentoring and other measures to help families with dependent relatives, and those who are struggling with debt, are also essential ingredients of a comprehensive anti-poverty programme.
Speaking to Nick Robinson, IDS said that poverty could not be beaten by concentrating on any one of today’s five giants of poverty. All five evils – family breakdown, severe indebtedness, addiction, educational failure and worklessness – all had to be tackled together.
ConservativeHome will be at tomorrow’s 10.30am unveiling of the 200 policy recommendations and IDS will be writing exclusively for this site about the philosophical underpinnings of his analysis. David Cameron will be speaking tomorrow afternoon at a London community project about his own first reaction to the former Tory leader’s report.